Gear Guy

Do I need an “expedition” tent?

I looking to buy a new tent for canoe tripping in the barrens of Canada's Northwest Territories. I expect lots of wind and rain so an expedition tent would be best. But what is an "expedition tent" anyway? Robert Guelph, Ontario

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Well, just calling a trip an “expedition” doesn’t mean you need that sort of tent. Technically speaking, an “expedition” tent is an extremely heavy-duty mountaineering tent for use when climbing Everest or crossing the South Pole by unicycle.

For lots of wind and rain —- and bugs, I expect —- what would work better for you, I think, is a good-quality three-season tent. These are about 90 percent as strong as expedition-type tents (they won’t take quite the snow loading —- but if that becomes an issue, then the tent is the least of your worries). The extra ventilation will be welcome during the summer months, while rain coverage is fine. You don’t say how many people will be in each tent, but I’d recommend getting three-person models even if it’s for just two people, as the weight isn’t too much of a factor and the extra room will be appreciated. A really fine all-purpose tent at a decent price is the MSR (formerly Walrus) Convertible Fusion 3. This is a roomy, tall, well-ventilated tent with a hoop-supported vestibule for good gear storage space. And very sturdy. Cost is $350, weight is about eight pounds.

I also like Sierra Designs’ Comet CD, a classic three-season design for $369. One difference between it and the Fusion 3 is that the MSR tent has its door at the head of the tent, while the Comet’s is on the side. I sort of prefer the head-door design, but the Comet is such a good tent that I’m willing to put that aside.

Finally, Marmot’s Hoot ($399) is a roomy, three-person design that’s perhaps a bit more rugged than either the MSR or SD designs. Two vestibules, for lots of storage, and I always think Marmot adds many nice touches, such as especially well designed gear pouches inside the tent, and super-sturdy tie-out loops.

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